Friday, January 23, 2009

The Prevalence of Procrastination

Many law students suffer from procrastination.  In fact, some of them have perfected procrastination beyond my wildest imagination.  The reality is that many of them were able to procrastinate throughout college without any adverse effects (at least not on their grades).  When they arrive at law school, they assume that they can get the same good grades without changing any of their habits.

As I have been working with a new crop of students who need to change their strategies and curb procrastination, I began thinking about the favorite ways that students procrastinate.  Here are some of the top contenders:

  • E-mailing, instant messaging, and talking on the cell phone.
  • Taking naps for three or four hours.
  • Hanging out in the student lounge.
  • Running random errands so that every study hour is interrupted.
  • Organizing a study area until it is immaculate.
  • Cleaning the apartment/house so that it is spotless.
  • Major painting or re-decorating projects.
  • Using a family pet as an excuse to go home and do nothing ("I had to let the dog out.").
  • Attending every student organization meeting and speaker (whether or not interested).
  • Watching every mindless TV program available after a "must see" 1/2 hour sitcom.
  • Working on their abs daily for multiple hours.
  • Blaming everything on their computer (the modern version of "the dog ate my homework.")
  • Asking everyone they know if they have started an assignment (as long as one other person has not, permission to procrastinate is present).
  • Visiting everyone in the library to talk about the latest law school gossip.
  • Scheduling long weekends to go skiing because the snow is just so perfect in Colorado.
  • Joining another community or organization committee with major time commitments.
  • Surfing the net for information on anything.
  • On-line shopping for anything useless, unwanted, or unaffordable.
  • Endless thinking about a project, task, or deadline.
  • Focusing solely on one's job hunt (forgetting that an employer may well look at grades).
  • Planning a wedding (usually the student's), a baby shower (usually for Aunt Jennie's neighbor's daughter), or a family reunion (usually a year away in a different state with contentious relatives).

When I point out the effects of their procrastination methods, some students are surprised that there is any connection between their behavior and their grade performance.  When I suggest practical ways based on common sense to avoid the procrastination, they are surprised at how simple the techniques are to avoid procrastination.

We all suffer from procrastination at times (at least if we are normal and telling the truth).  An occasional transgression is understandable.  When procrastination becomes a major lifestyle, it has gone too far.  (Amy Jarmon)

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